Richard Manchester, the island resident who was charged in Nantucket District Court in April of 2022 with three charges of photographing sexual or intimate parts of an individual without their consent, was found not guilty on all three charges by a Nantucket jury Monday afternoon.
The jury, which was made up of eight island residents (four men and four women), delivered the verdict just prior to 4 p.m. on Monday. One of the charges dated back to Oct. 14, 2021 and the other two were from March 7, 2022. Manchester was represented by attorney Rob Waickowski.
The charges stemmed from accusations that one of the three female alleged victims in the case discovered a camera disguised as a power adapter/charger plugged into an outlet that faces the shower in the bathroom of a home where Manchester is the landlord. The three women rented rooms from Manchester.
During the trial, still photos taken from the charger/camera showed that there was video taken of women going in and out of the shower naked.
Waickowski urged the jury to return a not-guilty verdict because he said the Cape & Island’s District Attorney’s Office did not meet its burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Manchester was the one who planted the camera in the bathroom.
Throughout the course of the trial, Waickowski provided evidence that the bathroom could be accessed by anyone, that at least one of the alleged victims in the case had had visitors stay at the home (including their boyfriends) and argued that it could have been anyone who put the camera in the home.
The first 27 videos from the camera were from Manchester’s room and showed him walking around and going into his own private bathroom. Waickowski claimed this was evidence that Manchester was unaware of the camera.
“Who would videotape themselves going to the bathroom?” Waickowski asked the jury. “Is that logical?”
Waickowski also argued that Manchester’s willingness to cooperate with the Nantucket Police Department from the beginning of the case represented the actions of an innocent man.
“My client provided cell phones and computers,” Waickowski said. “The Commonwealth has provided no items but downloads from the charger. The Commonwealth has provided no information my client purchased this charger, downloaded, or viewed these pictures, and has no evidence video could be downloaded by WiFi.”
The lone witness Waickowski called to testify was Jeffrey Cronin, a lifelong friend of Manchester who also lives at the residence in question. He told the court that Manchester has had plenty of turnover in tenants – at least once per year – and that there were “lots of people” coming and going throughout the six or seven years Cronin lived there without an issue.
Several aspects of the original police report were confirmed during the trial, particularly when Nantucket Police Sgt. Jacquelyn Hollis testified. Hollis said that Manchester had originally denied knowing about the camera but later explained that he had seen those devices in ads on Instagram in a subsequent police interview.
Manchester also told police in a later interview that he was ultimately responsible for the device being in that bathroom since he is the landlord of the home.
There were five distinct facts the District Attorney's office needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order for the jury to come away with a guilty verdict. All defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, so if the DA’s office failed to prove just one of these five things, Nantucket District Court Judge James Sullivan informed the jury that a not-guilty verdict should be issued:
- Manchester willfully photographed, videographed, or taped the victims.
- Manchester did so without the victim’s consent.
- Manchester intended to hide the fact he did this.
- The alleged victims were nude/partially nude.
- The victims had a reasonable belief of privacy in the area recorded.
Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Michael Preble believed that his office had done just that. He felt as though they had proven all five of those things beyond a reasonable doubt.
There were photos/videos proving the women in question were in fact in a nude state in the recordings. The three alleged victims testified during the trial and said they were unaware of the device. He pointed to Manchester admitting to using the charger while making minor repairs in the bathroom and being aware of the outlet after originally denying he knew it existed. Then Preble said given that it was a private bathroom, the women had a reasonable expectation to be able to use it privately.
“Credible evidence leads you to believe they were unknowingly recorded,” Prebel said. “Manchester lives at and is landlord of this home. He had access to the bathroom, was aware these devices existed, and admitted to using it to plug in his phone while making minor repairs.”
The DA’s office did not, however, provide any evidence from Manchester’s two phones or laptop that showed he had taken the videos off the hidden camera and downloaded them himself. Cape and Islands assistant district attorney Russ Eonas told the Current that because the devices were voluntarily handed over by Manchester, a search warrant was not required in order to go through them.
A search of these devices by the Barnstable County Sheriff's Office Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI) Unit turned up nothing that connected Manchester with the content found on the hidden camera.
The hidden camera, which had 99 photos on it, was not entered into evidence. However Eonas pointed to the fact that the prosecution submitted two photos from the camera depicting the woman nude and three other photos of the bathroom as evidence for what was discovered when it was searched.
In the original police report, Sgt. Hollis says that the videos of these women the NPD viewed were from the camera's SD microchip. She also stated that after a "search" without any other context, they were able to find information on Manchester's Google Chrome account that showed he searched "data dump" on October 21, 2021 and October 26, 2021. October 21st was the day after his laptop and Android were seized while the 26th was the day before his second cell phone was seized.
There was also no receipt or any sort of evidence provided in court proving Manchester had purchased the charger. These two areas were a significant part of Waickowski's defense and were highlighted during his closing argument.
But Preble said given Manchester’s admission he had used the charger while making repairs to the bathroom, was aware these chargers existed through ads he had seen on social media platforms, and the fact he had originally denied knowing about the device before later saying in a different interview that he must take responsibility since he is the landlord, that the evidence was enough to incriminate him as the individual who planted the device in the bathroom.
However, after about 30 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned to the court room to deliver the not-guilty verdict. The case is now closed.
This story will be updated.